Jim Doyle’s “We Are the Lesser Evil” Speech

Media Rants
By Tony Palmeri

from the June, 2005 edition of The Valley Scene

On June 10th and 11th Oshkosh plays host to the annual convention of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Like Republican conventions, Democratic drills today consist of little more than exercises in self-aggrandizement and delusion for party true believers. Attendees can’t say or do anything that might crack the thin veneer of unity, while media coverage features hackneyed quotes lifted from flowery floor speeches and banal pundit banter about the party’s prospects for victory in the next election.

I had the audacity in 2004 to exercise my democratic (small-d) right to run for office as a Green Party candidate, consequently upsetting some so-called Democratic Party “leaders” who believe their candidates are entitled to Green votes because . . . well, just because. My running as a Green did not make me ineligible to receive a pre-recorded phone message from a Democratic State Senator inviting me to attend a party fundraiser, but I received no such invitation to attend the convention. I won’t be giving money, but I would like to donate a speech to Governor Jim Doyle. I strongly urge him to deliver this message to the convention delegates.

And now Jim Doyle’s “We Are the Lesser Evil” speech

Friends and fellow Democrats. Seventy-one years ago, Wisconsin’s Progressive Party was formally organized not far from here, in Fond du Lac at a meeting attended by Republicans and Democrats tired of politics as usual. The Progressives were one of the most successful third party movements in history, controlling the Wisconsin state legislature for a decade.

Today we hear clamoring for a new third party movement, with growing numbers of Greens, Independents, and People’s Legislature activists arguing that Democrats can not or will not fix Madison’s broken politics.

The clamoring critics keep reminding me of what I said on the night of our great victory in 2002: "It's a new day in Wisconsin. We are going to change the way we do business in Madison. It means changing how we do the business of government itself -- from public financing of elections to a more transparent and accountable budget process."

The clamoring critics act as if I am the first elected official ever to break a promise or fail to fight for reform. The clamoring critics think we should be worried that people like Don Jones, who served as executive director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from 1983 to 1987, has said that “Jim does not merit, nor will he receive, any support from me in this campaign until a tough reform bill is passed and signed into law.”

Well ladies and gentlemen, there’s clearly one thing the clamoring critics and my good friend Don Jones do not understand about we New Democrats. It’s this: WE ARE THE LESSER EVIL.

Yes, WE are the lesser evil! When the clamoring critics tell you that my administration cut the UW System budget by $250 million and set the stage for out of control tuition increases, that we ran whistleblower and tuition freeze advocate Nino Amato off the Board of Regents, and that faculty and staff morale is at its lowest point in a generation, you be sure to tell them that with a Republican governor things would be much worse. You tell them that WE ARE THE LESSER EVIL.

Yes, WE are the lesser evil! The clamoring critics will tell you that we don’t fight for guaranteed health care. Do they think the Republicans fight for that? They’ll tell you that we don’t fight for progressive income taxes based on ability to pay. Do they think the Republicans fight for that? They’ll tell you that we don’t fight to get corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Do they think the Republicans fight for that?

My friends, say it with me so that the clamoring critics can hear us loud and clear: WE ARE THE LESSER EVIL! (Applause).

My dear Democrats, the clamoring critics maliciously claim that my Job Creation Acts are actually environmental deregulation bills. Sure, the acts have been opposed by every major pollution watchdog organization in the state. Sure, the great Gaylord Nelson opposes the acts. Sure, the public was given little opportunity to comment. Sure, Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager said the first Job Creation Act "contains significant changes in the law that represent substantial weakening of environmental standards that have protected Wisconsin's waterways and air quality for decades." Sure, Peggy had to file an open records request just to find out what was in the bill. Sure, I can’t prove that even one job has been created as a result of the legislation.

But I can tell you this: things will be much worse with Mark Green or Scott Walker in the governor’s office. In fact, you’d better tell those Green Party rebels that in 2006 a vote for the Greens is a vote for Mark Green! (applause). Scare them into voting for us if you have to!

Friends, it’s time for the clamoring critics to grow up. Tell them to stop dreaming about a progressive takeover of our legislature. Tell them anything is better than the Republicans. Tell them that we New Democrats may not act like LaFollette or FDR, but WE ARE THE LESSER EVIL. Thank you.

Tony Palmeri (www.tonypalmeri.com) is an associate professor of communication at UW Oshkosh.